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Amanda Platell speaks to David Frost
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: AMANDA PLATELL HEAD OF NEWS AND MEDIA, CONSERVATIVE PARTY JUNE 24TH, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: A few hours after polls closed on June the 7th William Hague announced he was off, it was a decision that disappointed his supporters who urged him to stay on and came as a complete surprise to all but his very closest aides and the person who'd been promoting his cause most vigorously and ultimately unsuccessfully was his press secretary, Amanda Platell.

[FILM CLIP]

DAVID FROST: Amanda's here, Amanda Platell, welcome.

AMANDA PLATELL: Good morning David.

DAVID FROST: If you'd known how the campaign was going to, going to end would you still have said yes to the job?

AMANDA PLATELL: I spoke to William a few days after that Friday, that piece of footage and I said to him quite honestly, unlike you, I've not enjoyed every day of it because he always says he's enjoyed every day. I certainly haven't enjoyed every day but I said to him that even if I'd known when you first asked me at breakfast whether or not I'd do the job or whether I'd come and help him, I still would have done it.

DAVID FROST: You still would have done it?

AMANDA PLATELL: It's the biggest tribute I can pay him.

DAVID FROST: And what was that day like, when was it that you realised things were going wrong, was it when you, when you saw the exit polls or much earlier in the day or much earlier in the campaign?

AMANDA PLATELL: Certainly on that night the exit polls and there was so little movement from it and this kind of pall descended upon the, upon Central Office, upon the war room and then obviously I spoke to William during the middle of the night and I knew what he was going to do.

DAVID FROST: How many people knew that?

AMANDA PLATELL: I think that probably two or three and that's it.

DAVID FROST: But he, and he'd said before hand that if there was, the defeat was greater than X or whatever, that he would think of resigning, had he?

AMANDA PLATELL: I knew that that's what would happen, let's just put it like that, I think that ultimately the time will come when he will want to talk about this himself and I shouldn't pre-empt him.

DAVID FROST: Well what were your feelings that night, had you got, had you, had you really managed to convince yourself all through that the polls were wrong?

AMANDA PLATELL: I think we really thought that we'd do better than we did in the end but what you have to remember is we still got 33 per cent of the share of vote, Labour got 41 and when we started off the six weeks before the election night, we were 25 points behind in the polls, we finished up 9 points difference, it wasn't enough but it was a, it was, you know anyone who's ever fought an election, it's a terribly, it's a terribly personal, it's a very emotional thing to do, it's also physically and emotionally draining and it was a devastating night.

DAVID FROST: Devastating night I'm sure, so you didn't get much sleep neither, none of them, none of you got much sleep?

AMANDA PLATELL: No sleep, I remember one of my most vivid memories of that night was I knew that William was coming, coming back from Yorkshire and we had three key principles in the party, the Chairman Michael Ancram and we had Ann Widdecombe and we had Ian Duncan-Smith all driving through the night at break-neck speed to get back to Central Office in time to try and talk William out of it. But there was no talking him out of it.

DAVID FROST: Was there anything you would have done differently if, if you had the campaign over again?

AMANDA PLATELL: I think now is the time for people to reflect on, on how we take the party forward. There, there are a large number of people who are involved in that campaign and in that strategy and I'm sure that they're all going through the same process at the moment, I don't think it's really for me to, to say.

DAVID FROST: And what about William's own future, John Major said on this programme last Sunday that he thought that William Hague had a great future in the Conservative Party in a senior position if he wanted it, do you feel that way?

AMANDA PLATELL: You'll have to ask him that. All I know is that two and a half years

DAVID FROST: No but do you feel, do you feel that, that there is a place for him still in the Conservative Party?

AMANDA PLATELL: Well of course I do, he's, you know he's a magnificent politician, he's a magnificent man, I think the tragedy was that it wasn't really until the very end that people saw the greatness in him, it was only when he stood in front of Central Office and resigned, and as you can see from all the tributes to him since that people actually saw the third dimension of him.

DAVID FROST: Now what are you going to do, are you going to stay on at Central Office under a new leader?

AMANDA PLATELL: No I'll stay and I've already discussed this William, and I'll stay up to but not beyond the point he leaves. And so I will decide when I leave, I mean, I might not go all the way through to September because, well, been discussing it so it's a long haul.

DAVID FROST: But you were the one who had the inspiration , everybody says, for the haircut?

AMANDA PLATELL: No it's not. I loved his hair but I'm afraid it was done before I got there, it's like all these things in, in the fullness of time people will find out what I was and wasn't responsible for. The proudest thing I, the thing I'm proudest of is we started off with William as a dead parrot and he ended up, I would, I would argue, an eagle, a bald one but

DAVID FROST: A bald eagle, I would have loved to have heard more from Ffion actually, because she's so bright?

AMANDA PLATELL: Oh she's brilliant but all you had to do was to look at that woman during the campaign and see what a magnificent partner she was to him. I mean that was a personal decision that they took that she wasn't going to talk during the campaign and I think it was the right one.

DAVID FROST: You think it was the right one in the end?

AMANDA PLATELL: Yes.

DAVID FROST: What have you learnt about politics from this experience?

AMANDA PLATELL: Oh - I remember when I first took the job there were a couple of pieces that said Amanda Platell's about to find out whether or not newspapers at the executive level or politics at the executive level is more vicious and I'm afraid I found out that it was the latter.

DAVID FROST: It was the latter, well what about, what about the press in general, someone, a Conservative I was talking to the other day thought overall, over the four years William Hague had a pretty fair press, do you think so?

AMANDA PLATELL: I would ask you to play what is something called the William Hague test which we can't play anymore but take back any time sort of before the election and any time during those four years and every time you read William Hague in the paper substitute your own name and every time you read Ffion Hague substitute the person you love most in the world's name and see how you feel by lunch time and I would say that, that there's seldom been a politician who's had a rougher time, it turn, it did turn around, I mean towards the end you had, you know you had Richard Littlejohn saying he was a great guy, you had Lynda Lee Potter, you had people like Janet Daley who'd always supported him. And you had editors like David yelland and Dominic Lawson who saw him before, you know who saw him before anyone else did. I think he got a lot of kicks along the way though.

DAVID FROST: Are you going to, are you going to write your memoirs of the campaign?

AMANDA PLATELL: I have to say it is one of the things that's been put to me but I really think now is the time just for the party needs to be healed and we need to have some time to, you know to reflect and I, I've got a number of offers that range from business through to writing columns, through to writing even another novel. And I'm not going to decide yet.

DAVID FROST: Not going to decide.

AMANDA PLATELL: I'm going to take my time.

DAVID FROST: Well thank you for being with us Amanda this morning. We appreciate it. Thank you, Amanda Platell talking about the campaign.

END

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